Kelita Crossland and his relations

Kelita Crossland was my paternal great-grandfather.  There were some oral memories of him in my family, mainly because my paternal grandfather, Reginald Crossland,  had married his cousin Harriet Micklethwaite, in a second marriage.  Harriet (b. 1892) was the daughter of Kelita’s daughter, Sarah and had some recollections of him; she also knew stories told about him and his generation by older family members.

Kelita and Sarah

In the 1851 Census Kelita is 13 years old, born in 1838, the son of Thomas and Sarah Crossland.   It is possible that Sarah had been born Sarah Crowther.  They were all born in Middleton,  Yorkshire, now part of Leeds; the registration district is Hunslet. The family is listed as Thomas Crossland 44, Sarah Crossland 38, John Crossland 19, Sophia Crossland 17, Henry Crossland 15, Kelita Crossland 13, and Harriat Crossland 10. All the males  are described as working in coal mining, except Kelita who, at 13, is employed in a flax mill.  In the 1841 Census John, Kelita’s older brother, was already described as a miner at the age of 9.  Harriat is described as a ‘scholar’ which means she was in education. The address of their residence is  Nova Scotia.  This is an area in alongside the Leeds-Liverpool canal, which includes a number of locks.  The housing they are living in is probably one of a number of ‘low cottages’.

In May of 1860 Kelita  married Sarah Ann Midgley in the parish church of St Thomas, Woolwich.  Sarah Ann  22, born in Hunslet, was the daughter of Sarah Harrison  and her first husband William  Midgley probably a shoemaker.  The recently widowed Sarah Harrison had remarried in 1840 to William Newell and soon after Sarah Ann’s half-sister, Ruth Newell had been born.   Their official marriage record spells Kelita  as “Kalita” maybe reflecting different pronunciations of the name.  There is no known reason for the marriage being celebrated in London, but it can be assumed that he was working in London for his employers.  An oral recollection from Harriet, his grand-daughter recounted that he traveled as part of his work including a period fitting machinery in Germany for Krupp.  This implies that he had considerable skills in his trade.

In the 1871 census Kelita is 32 and  is head of a family of six children – Maria Crossland 10, Thomas Crossland 8, James Crossland 6, Sarah Crossland 5, Walter Crossland 3 (my paternal great-grandfather), and William Crossland (no age given). Kelita is described as a machine fitter in ‘the factory’. The address is given as 10, Jericho Street.  In the 1891 census his daughter Sarah is married to Joah Micklethwaite and living at 12 Jericho Street.

In the 1881 census his family has increased to include Charles Crossland 7, Elizabeth Crossland 5, and Earnest Crossland 2. The family is still  living in Hunslet at I Lom Place. In the 1891 Census, he is at the same address with his wife and four of his children Walter, William, Charles and Elizabeth Ann.

A family recollection  passed down to his great-grandson Bernard Crossland suggested that Kelita worked for at least part of his life for Tannett Walker.  Engineering was a major industry in Leeds during the 19th century, and Tannett Walker was one of the many important engineering companies providing employment in the area.  They built cranes and hydraulic lifting equipment, with notable examples throughout the British Isles.  They were certainly installing cranes in London and Goole Docks; there is a belief that a member of the famous German engineering Krupp family was an apprentice with them for a period.

Other memories were from Harriet Crossland who recalled  that Sarah Ann Midgley was an aggressive woman, and that Kelita was a heavy drinker.  Harriet was born in 1892 and therefore knew Sarah Ann who lived until 1919, and quite possibly remembered Kelita who died in 1898.

The claim that he was a heavy drinker is  supported by Kelita’s appearance in the West Riding criminal records in 1866 charged with manslaughter in a case involving the death of David Saville at the hands of Benjamin Smith on a Saturday night in the vicinity of the Rose and Crown Yard in Leeds.  David Saville was a young cloth dresser, struck by a fatal blow by Smith, who appears to have been unknown to him.  Kelita was accused of inciting the fight with the shout of ‘Let him have it.’   Various witnesses gave different accounts of what appears to have been a late-night drunken fight.  He was charged with manslaughter but eventually  cleared, however he appears to have been lucky, rather than totally innocent.  It is interesting to note that Walter, Kelita’s son,  and Walter’s son Reginald were Rechabites – total abstainers who had ‘signed the Pledge.’ Reginald’s son said this was because of the drunkenness that had afflicted Kelita and some of his children.  Reginald strongly disapproved of alcohol throughout his life; indeed, at the wedding of his son Bernard in 1946 he demanded that he was given orange juice instead of champagne for the toast.  A demand that the bride’s father, Frank Elliott Birks, considered bad mannered.

There was a family rumour that Kelita may have been a Quaker, but no evidence exists to support this claim and his involvement in a drunken fight does not indicate a religious man.  His unusual name is a Bible name and obscure Biblical names are not uncommon in Victorian Britain,  although it is odd that no other members of the family had  especially religious names.  He was baptised in  Leeds Parish Church (Parish Church of Saint Peter-at-Leeds) on 13th May 1838.  His marriage was celebrated in an Anglican Church.  In 19th century Leeds there were more dissenters than Anglicans in the working population.

Crossland family probably 1890’s

This photograph (supplied by one of William Crossland’s descendents) clearly shows a much older, physically frailer Kelita than the young man in the earlier photograph.  Sarah is still recognizable and the younger people are almost certainly their children although there is no indication of their names.  It is an obvious ‘occasion’ and the photograph shows them dressed in relatively formal clothes.

On 18th June 1898 the Leeds Times reports ‘an invalid’s lucky escape’ describing how a bedridden Kelita had almost perished when his pipe caught his bedding on fire and he was rescued by a neighbour called Bilcliffe.   The last official record is of his death in  November 1898 at the age of 60. However, his name lived on, for in 1900 a Kelita Crossland was born in Hunslet.  In the 1911 Census he is revealed as the child of Kelita’s son Charles Crossland a general labourer in the local colliery, living in Hunslet along with brothers Walter, Harry and Stanley.  He married in 1922 and probably died in 1980.

Harriet also noted that the Midgley family had USA connections to the steel industry and that she herself had spent time in America as a young woman. This connection was through Sarah’s sister, Ruth who Harriet stated was  involved in the steel industry. Her mother, Sarah Micklethwaite was traveling on The Mauritania  to New York in 1913, with her young son Jessie.  In 1903 a widow, Sarah Ann Crossland aged 64 from Hunslet is traveling from Liverpool to Boston on RMS Majestic (records of Ellis Island); it is likely that this is Kelita’s wife on a visit to her sister.  In 1912 James Crossland, a riveter of 2 Hall Street is traveling on The Franconia to Boston; this is almost certainly her son who a family story suggests died in New York State in  railway accident.  Sarah Ann  died in Hunslet at the age of 80 in June 1919; in 1911 she was living  alone at 6 Hall Street.  The fuller story of Ruth Newell appears in on a further page of this site.

Related names Midgley, Whitehead, Rudduck and Micklethwaite

I have corrected this article after useful comments and corrections from Paul Crowther and material provided by Hannah, one of William Crossland’s descendents.  If anyone has any knowledge of who the children in the photograph are, please contact me.

Excellent historic photographs, including some of the addresses on this page can be found at

This is an archival project made available by Leeds Library & Information Service; it includes photographs of some of the places associated with Kelita


This site covers various aspects of Hunslet, including history with illustrations of old maps and photographs

The story of Ruth Newell is on my page at


2 Responses to Kelita Crossland and his relations

  1. Paul Crowther says:

    A couple of small corrections. Nova Scotia was nowhere near the Leeds-Liverpool canal. It was an area of Middleton that consisted af a couple of groups of houses in open fields about threequarters of a mile from Broome Colliery. My grandparents and mother lived there from 1941 to 1955. I suspect that I have an early memory of the place, though I can’t be sure. The houses were demolished in the late 1950’s. The Newhall estate was built on the site.
    The 1851 census lists the Crossland family at Nova Scotia but doesn’t give a number – because there were no house numbers for the hamlet. The number 117 refers to the ‘schedule’ i.e. the number of the specific household entry. I don’t know where you got ‘Chapleton’ from, as the sub-district of the registration is Rothwell. Middleton was incorporated into Leeds in 1920.
    There is an image of the Low Cottages at Nova Scotia on the Leodis photographic archive website. You will also find images related to Broome Colliery there. (It closed in 1968.)

  2. Hannah G says:

    Kelita Crossland was my Paternal Great, Great Grandfather. His son William was father to my Grandfather Walter.

    Thank you for the useful information.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.